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VÁCLAV KAREL HOLAN ROVENSKÝ: TIME AS VOICE
from the hymnal Capella regia musicalis (1693/94)

  

F10124   [8595017412424]   released 7/2004

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RITORNELLO  directed by Michael Pospíšil
Beata Pecháčková - vocal, violin; Hana Blažíková - vocal, harp; Kateřina Doležalová - vocal, harp; Jan Mikušek - vocal, dulcimer; Marc Niubo - vocal; Radim Vondráček - vocal; Michael Pospíšil - vocal, organ positive, flageolet; Štefan Sukup - flute, cornetto; Radovan Vašina - cornetto; Richard Šeda - cornetto, recorder, drum; Ondřej Sokol - sackbut; Jan Klimeš - dulcian; Hana Fleková - viola da gamba; Miloslav Študent - archlute, viola da gamba; Jan Krejča - theorbo, Baroque guitar; Vladimír Roubal - organ; Tomáš Reindl - kettle drums.

Time as Voice
or, A Singing Horologe

‘Like a night, power passed/ Like a dream, day could not last/ Time like a voice does not remain/ You cannot bring it back again’
     It seems as though Hollan (1644-1718), with this clear yet poetic, dreamy formulation anticipated Máj (May) by the great nineteenth-century Czech poet Karel Hynek Mácha. Time = Chronus = Saturnus = Death with its scythe and the inexorable hourglass has – or seems to have – become reincarnate c.1700 in pocket watches and astronomical clocks for the home, bringing disorder to an order uninterrupted for thousands of years: a confusion with the rhythm of that rushing round. And it runs, even flies, ballet-dances, and mows down with its scythe: this flight thwarts the years… and life is done for! 
     In the wilderness of the castle ruins, where thieves made merry – like the infamous Petrovští robbers of lore – amid the rocks and the trees, Hollan often strolled, it seems, with a lively echo. What in fact was this ‘echo’ for Baroque man? Was it a voice/non-voice, perhaps a fairy? Music, the breath of the Muses, of fairies, lives only in time. When it enters into space, it flies away. The wall formed by the forest or cliffs stops it, and it floods back on us, and, in jest, tickles the curiosity and fear somewhere deep inside us. What could be behind that wall? And what’s behind that time? We traverse time with song, and return; confusion, confusion. The oscillation between Matter and Energy is just as mysterious to us – again, we don’t really know anything. ¨
     Our Time warps itself here. What is the way out of this fix? It leers at us, with the grimace of grinning masks on everything: doorknobs, doors, and portals, furniture, and other carvings. Time lies in wait, and Man, knowing no more than his ‘now’ and, perhaps, ‘before’, would like to know what is ‘yet to come’, wants some perspective. In an established ritual, he holds up a ‘mirror’ to the past, and puts his hope in the ‘World behind the Mirror’. He loves that picture. So be it. I too set store by that picture; for, after all, why rush? Let Death mow down Time, hour after hour, in the Prague astronomical clock!
     Man learned to resist his panicky fear of Death with ceremony and pathos. To gain some Hope for himself and to be capable of Love, he ‘aligned’ and ‘canonized’ certain operations on the straight line (or perhaps half-line or abscissa) of his life and his ancestors’, and now, behind the upright and reverse ‘mirror’ of Faith, he struggles hard to love continuation. He wound the poured sands of Time into a dial, and changed Ritual to Ritornello, that is, to Refrain. The real Music, the breath of the Muses, lives in Time only, and dies with it. Each ‘medium’ playing a recording over and over again is just playing at music, but if we understand the spinning compact disc as a variation on the mystical dial, we may be able to point to a ‘higher plane’, to Trans-Time. By contrast, it is from there, I believe, that Music descends towards us, bringing the ‘Echo’ to us as a ‘pledge’. Perhaps it is its very transience that, paradoxically, makes it the best interpreter of the Age-Old Truth, of Eternity. I reject the flat, linear separation of Music into ‘high-quality music’ and ‘the other music’, into ‘Masters’ and ‘Kleinmeistern’, masters of the small format: all live music is at its most perfect in its own circumstances; it is our mission to keep looking for what its creator had in mind and to discover our Selves, the purest, highest, and deepest in our own Hearts. The sentiment may perhaps help a little. But watch out!

Re-introit Bohemiae
     AD 2004, ‘The Bohemian Lands Join Europe’? But they were part of it before, as the ‘conservatory of Europe’! What ‘typically’ Bohemian thing could we boast to the World? The landscape? The culture? One is part of the other and both were, in fact, skilfully ‘composed’ in the ‘Baroque’. Mutually. Gently. For me.
     The once legendary Czech musicality was founded, produced, and kept alive by cantor-singer-teachers. Adam Michna and Václav Karel Hollan, it is no overstatement to say, saved Czech as our national language, and rescued us as a nation! How did they do that? They invented, composed, collected, and published charming songs that immediately took off. And it is not those who speak a language together, but those who sing together in a language who create a nation. That is the difference between ‘I must’ and ‘I will’. This is no longer a heated dialogue; it is a higher state of understanding, a polyphony, that is, harmonized independent voices, an accord. It is a resonance, an ‘echo’.
     Václav Karel Hollan has shaped our landscape and culture as a pilgrim, hermit, sculptor-stonemason, poet, composer, and editor. What do we really know about him?

Václav Karel Hollan: c.v.
Hollan was born in Rovensko pod Troskami, north Bohemia, in 1644. He probably studied at the Jesuit school in Jičín, and was later active as a teacher – ‘cantor’, organist, scribe, ‘Kapellmeister’ in Rovensko, Turnov, and Dobrovice. In 1674 he evidently joined a ‘jubilee procession’ on a pilgrimage to Rome, and later had to defend himself from the accusation that he had wanted to escape from teaching. Sometime after 1680 he was organist and ‘Kapellmeister’ at Vyšehrad, in Prague; he published two Passions (1690 and 1692), and a large hymnal Capella regia musicalis (1693/94), as editor, apparently also typographer, and possibly engraver, as well as a lyricist and composer-musician. Exhausted, it seems, by the ‘weariness caused by lack of funds’, about 1694 he left for the land of his birth, and settled in the ruins of the cliff-top castle of Waldstein to live as a hermit (but really a sexton). Here he may have built a chapel and looked after it, picked up a chisel and worked as a stonemason-sculptor. He died quietly on 27 February 1718, and was buried in his native Rovensko.
     ‘The Contemplative Adventurer’. Did he exchange the powdered wig for the bushy beard of the ‘Green Man’? He probably had no family of ‘his own’ to live with, and that was almost certainly his chief motivation. He devoted himself fully and freely to his work. He toiled away alone, and set an example for us to follow.
     He set a goal: a Calvary and castle chapel of St John the Baptist – after all, John, too, had been a hermit. He thus prepared a ‘desert pilgrimage’ for others. None the less, we now need to appreciate the Baroque notion of the ‘hermit’ as an entirely new word. The eremite could have lived on a pillar or a tower in the middle of a town (such as Velvary in central Bohemia). He could serve as an accessory, something of a holy furnishing, for example, at the back corner of a seigniorial garden as in Jičín, or serve as a sextant-Kapellmeister, as Hollan did at Castle Waldstein. The hermit followers of Ivan even lived as a community at Sloup (the Czech word for ‘pillar’) near Česká Lípa, north Bohemia. How are we to understand the fact that the hermit Hollan probably owned a meadow in Turnov? The story is perhaps far more complex and we can only speculate how it all was ‘in reality’. Perhaps he had a bit of Leonardo da Vinci, Robinson Crusoe, and Jára da Cimrman in him. 

The Hymnal
Singing from a hymnal is in itself a ritual. It is a recipe against aging. I shall allow myself a provocative thought: if music lives in time and dies when stopped, then, if perfectly submersed in it, we also defy time and live on! The poem will only suggest what cannot be said: before, now, and in the future.
     For the Baroque man the hymnal was also a sung calendar, diary, cookery book, and herbarium. It was a good read and a collection of ‘God’s Anecdotes’. It was a bibliothèque in a single book and everything that an ordinary person really needed in order to attain a ‘high level’ (one higher than his belly). In the introduction to his Amsterdam Hymnal (1659) Jan Amos Komenský (Comenius) says that the Pilgrim (meaning all of us) has only two hands; Komenský presents him with his condensed version of the Bible (Manuálník, aneb jádro celé biblí svaté, 1658) for one hand, and the Hymnal for the other. The first ‘channel’ is the ‘receiving’ one; the latter is the ‘transmitting’ one. This is how, through Man, a ‘conductive oscillating circuit’ with the Sky becomes complete. And as memory fails and tradition (the Chinese Whispers game) corrupts the original, man has discovered the Hymnal, a form of crib notes. The bigger it is, the less conspicuous it becomes.
     Hollan’s Hymnal was so large that it escaped the attention of both the people and the authorities that kept an eye on culture. As a hymnal, Capella regia musicalis is unique in the world, for several important reasons. Its relatively large format (A4) was rarely used anywhere. (Another example is Jan Jozeff Božan’s Slavíček rajský [Nightingale of Paradise, 1719], which was inspired by the Capella). It was so big that it required a music stand. It was not, however, meant only to remain standing in the church as a counterpart to the liturgical books on the altar; it was intended for use in processions, schools, at table in peoples’ homes, and at the bedside (for morning, evening, and wedding songs). Some of the songs seem to have come running in from a small grove, park, garden, or field-path, or, conversely, running back to them. It contains songs for a small Bohemian Ordinary, next to evensongs, songs for the congregation, solo ‘arias’ for professionals – the acolytes. Some of the songs allow the accompanying organist to ‘shine’; others have been furnished much less modestly with parts not just for the organ but for other instruments as well: violin, viola, clarino, and trombone. No other nation in the world can boast such an accomplishment, and most of us don’t even have an inkling of it.
     Just as the typical Bohemian landscape was created some 300 years ago by intervention, artificial design (woods, meadows, small churches, tree-lined avenues, and ‘vistas’ in and out of the landscape), the most typical Bohemian music, which earned the Bohemian Lands the title ‘Conservatory of Europe’ (as the English music historian Charles Burney wrote in the late eighteenth century), grew out of the rich tradition of cantors and congregational singing. Hard to express other than by song and poetry, perhaps one can say, however, that Hollan was one of those Atlases who for centuries, through their prayers and now through ours, have supported the Heavens so that they do not collapse and bury us.


A Singing Horologe: A Poet’s Flight through the Centuries, a Step with Each Year and a Year with Each Step
     How can one make a painless selection from the more than 756 songs in the Hymnal? What order and direction should guide such a choice? How to ensure that neither you nor we are sold short?
     Leafing through the hymn-book is an answer in itself: ‘Wrapped’ in the ‘dial of the singing horologe’ is the triple order of life that each of us lives: day, year, age. Each has its morning, noon, evening, and night. Its Advent, Christmas, Mardi Gras, Lent, Resurrection… its All Souls’ Day.
     What style should one choose? Some songs lived long before Hollan; some continue to live to this day. The Hymnal itself has been sung from for at least 300 years – marginal notes and corrections demonstrate this. We have at our disposal a rich palette of styles ranging across time and genres. We have used the period procedures, instruments, and so forth, but what about the style? The style keeps developing; such are the laws of Music. The adaptations of the original pieces for the given conditions, such as transposition, instrumentation, strophes, and the like, are all ‘authentic’, as was each moment we spent with the music. Music flies!

The Selection: Hollanesque Love in the Tongues of Men and Angels
1. A Different Song on Václav Hollan – Intrada for Hollan; ‘A Different Song on St Wenceslas and Other Saints’; he has left us an ‘Opus Sacrum’.
2. Angel of God, my Guardian Dear – ‘De Profundis’, out of the deep of day as ‘La Folia’ and a ‘communion–frolicking of saints’.
3. Hark, from the Heavenly Court – ‘Historicus’, the Evangelist presents a certain ‘mini-cantata scattered across the Hymnal’.
4. Mary, grant us thy permission – ‘Ave’, ‘Hail Mary’; a variation on the ‘Angelic curtsy’; bombastic and filled with provincial embellishments.
5. O Lord! – ‘Fiat’, ‘let it be done’; as a Baroque variation on the histrionic, doll-like, coy affect.
6. Mary, a Noble Field – a ‘hymnus’ of the liberated Souls, bubbling with metaphors from the Litanies of Loretto.
7. Sing, Angels – an Advent ‘Finale’; an Angelic Lullaby provided with Hollan’s original violin variation.
8. The Radiant Sun – an ‘acrostic’: Jan Malina Hradecký (signed or donated by him).
9. Hark my Soul – a ‘Mixtura’ of a lullaby and the blast of bugles or perhaps French horns; an ‘echological’, a ‘repeater’ of Christmas Processionals.
10. O King most High of Earth and Sky – a ‘polychoric hymnus’; perhaps a dialogue of Sky and Earth, with improvisation, a ‘Praelud’ (Roubal).
11. To you, now Newlywed – ‘Small Carnival Weddings’; perhaps a justification of the hermit’s life and a virtuous dig – a dance.
12. There is not in this World – the ‘leitmotif’ of another Hollan theme: ‘Always pray for a better wife! At worst, you’ll get another one’.
13. Pastime Promenade – ‘Paradise’; a mystic look at the beauty of this World above the Little Flowers of the Garden of Gethsemene.
14. O ye who walk the path – ‘Improperie’; Good-Friday Reproaches; ideal for, say, a Procession to Calvary, which would take place near Waldstein.
15. Blessed Virgin, wherefore sighest thou? – ‘Theatrum Doloris’ and other ‘Dia-logus’ of the Angel and Mary; this time the Crisis at the Cross.
16. Surrexit Christus hodie – ‘Hallelujah’ in tongues of Men and Angels; the entire Mystery in full view and with Love thrown into the bargain.
17. Triumph, triumph, rejoice – ‘Theatrum II a là Michna’; the Harrowing of Hell in the vernacular of knights, swordsmen, and soldiers
18. The Mother Stood Rejoicing – ‘Stabat Mater’ II; as a ‘dancing march’ of the three Marys from the empty Tomb.
19. Lo in this time of spring – a ‘Convivium’ (a party); ‘Galanterie’ and a picnic song, maybe for a small grove; transcribed (and perhaps back again) on a ribbon.
20. Days of May / Voices of Joy – a ‘majales’, a traditional student carnival/parade (from Máj, meaning ‘May’, and les, meaning ‘wood’); once again a field-path song, with a ‘mini-instrumentarium’.
21. Hurry with joy, hurry with trumpets – ‘Theatrum’ III; as ‘The Heavenly Coronation’ with trumpets and drums; Michna’s text.
22. Pentecost – ‘Re-redescendent’; ‘re-descending’, this time of the Spirit into the World; with a ‘brass-band’.
23. What shall I say good Jesus? – a ‘chorale a là Bach’, thirty years before Johann Sebastian, with a (Roubalesque) ‘Choralvorspiel’
24. O Wonderful Jesus – ‘stop-time’ for ‘Spiritual Metabolism’; a ‘Kind Exchange’; the passacaglia is an evergreen.
25. Where are we going in such haste? – a ‘dance macabre’, the dance of death stinks; ‘no symphony when thy body rots.’
26. Where, oh where are you Emperor? – ‘Apotheosis Vanitatis’; the vanity of the world against fondness for the country folk; (Hollan was well acquainted with the daily grind!)
27. All the People of the World – an ‘acrostic’ got hold of the composer in ‘Mácha-like onomatopoeia’: ‘Time like a voice does not remain/You cannot bring it back again’.
28. In thy Name my Jesus – ‘Contemplatio’; the end of the Day-Year-Age and the beginning of a ‘New Life’ is silence. Amen.

‘Although a different Index was intended, / because of weariness caused by lack of funds this could not come to pass.’

A Very Short Note to the Pious Cantor or Musician
     Mark you, pious Singer/ that I have compiled these pious songs / according to my simplicity both old and new,/ and some cantilenas, in greater part by me composed/ not for fame/ or vain profit and money/ but for the honour and glory of the Lord/ for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the Holy Saints, and, should this be to your liking, the Instrumenta may be used between the verses. Meanwhile, I humbly implore of each and every one /who may receive my poor work into their hands,/ that if there be a mistake of sorts in the notation or in the text,/ and should there be two Quinti or else two Octavi, which arises not from want of art/ but failure of sight,/ and if such a mistake be found indeed,/ for never grows a Rose without a knot,/ that they would gladly take it on themselves to remedy such for the honour and Glory of the Lord; for this you will no doubt (singing devoutly) be fortunate here and then in Heaven rewarded:/ and pledging myself, if the Lord God grants me good health,/ to serve you one and all, and God in the first place/ with some work of greater substance,/ I wish you all happiness and good fortune with all your work in the home and in the field.

Given at Vyšehrad on the day of the Feast of St Peter the Apostle;/ namely, the 18th day of the Month of January/ in the year 1693.

Your Humble Servant, Václav Karel Holan Rovenský, Kapellmeister of Vyšehrad.

[…] this Hymnal was printed/ and finished in the Old Town of Prague in the great Charles College at the press of Jiří Laboun in the middle of Lent, the 17th day of March/ Anno Domini 1694.’

Hollan received the imprimatur (the authorization for publishing) on 12 December 1685.

What, summa summarum, is all this supposed to mean? I have sought, perhaps in a somewhat convoluted manner, to propose that ‘Time and Space’ are one, that we still stand facing the Cliff of ‘Echoes’ (perhaps the Wall of ‘Achs’ – of Wailing?); that song penetrates even to what lies behind the Wall (how? through motion); that the construction, destruction, and reconstruction of music and landscape are closely related; that Holan was well aware of this, and did not waste his time; that we have a high-ranking advocate (how? however we choose.) Lastly, Hollan’s Hymnal is also Vanity, although not necessarily, if it serves us on our Path.

And something else: do not be surprised when in the forest of Český ráj (Bohemian Paradise) you call out ‘Hola!’ and Hollan answers back from Paradise!

Bene vale, M.P.
Written in a little stable-hermitage, Nebužely, Bohemia, Easter 2004

Dedicatio:
I should like to dedicate our ‘Singing Horologe’ to the Man who breathed his last breath this very morning, and left thus to depart from Vysoká (the High) to Vyšší Říše (the Highest Kingdom) to sing his eternal ‘Amen-Hallelujah’; that is to P. Bernard Říšský, O.F.M. (Ordo Fratrum Minorum), who died on Easter Monday, 12 April 2004. With regret, thanks and a plea. And with love. He knows.


Further recordings by Michael Pospíšil and his Ritornello ensemble:

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